LENT... A Journey To EASTER
From ancient times, Christians have paused to reflect on the events of that first Holy Week when our Lord suffered, died, and rose again. It became the custom of Christ-followers to prepare for Easter each year with a 40-day period of godly sorrow and repentance.
In English, this season became known as “lent” which is derived from the word for springtime. In the early Church, Lent was the time when new converts were prepared for baptism, and those who had experienced church discipline were restored to full fellowship.
Lent focuses our attention on the incredible mercy and forgiveness found only in the Lord Jesus Christ and his shed blood for us. The season begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Easter Sunday. It’s a time for self-examination and repentance… prayer and self-denial… and reading and meditating on the Word of God.
Our hope and prayer is that during this Lenten season, you will experience “unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation
The week of February 18, 2024
Together in Word
Narrative: Mark 1:9-13
This week, we read where Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, anointed by the Spirit of God, blessed by the Father, and led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to battle with Satan. Jesus serves as a great example for us today. He lived His life “in the Spirit” – in other words, from an earthly perspective, the human Jesus lifted up His eyes to the Father and received His help!
Devotional: Psalm 46
We don’t know the historical setting of this Psalm. Some scholars point to the story of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-19. Regardless of the original setting of the Psalm, God has used Psalm 46 in the lives of countless readers through the centuries. The Psalmist describes the power of God’s presence when His people place their trust in Him. We are reminded that He is both a refuge, a strength, and an ever-present help in times of trouble. As you reflect upon the truths from this Psalm, remind yourself of times where you have found God to be all of that to you! Also, take the time this week to sit still and just be with Him!
This season is a great time to teach our children about spiritual practices. Young families, use this time to talk to your kids about some habits they could learn that would honor God (e.g., prayer before mealtimes or before bedtime). Parents of teenagers, you might use this time to help your preteen/teenager moderate their screen time, or take up a commitment to read Scripture in this Lenten season.
Together in Deed
Choose a Practice
Listening prayer is a way of praying that helps us cultivate an awareness of God’s presence and voice in our lives. Find ten to twenty minutes where you can sit in silence and be in God’s presence this week. It might be after you’ve pulled into the parking lot at work or before you go in to run an errand. It could be in the stillness of your house. As you sit, ask God to help you be aware of God’s presence. Choose a word or phrase from Scripture to help re-orient your focus on God when your thoughts race (Father, Spirit, Son, Lord have mercy, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”). You may feel that God is leading you to something; you may feel like nothing happened. Both are normal. Learning to listen to God is a great way to cultivate a dynamic life in the Spirit.
Reflect on your baptism. What has happened in your life since then? How have you grown into Christ-likeness over time? If you haven’t been baptized by immersion, consider this an invitation to do so! Connect with a minster to start a conversation. If you’re a parent, have a conversation with your children about baptism. If they’ve been baptized, guide them through the two questions above. If they haven’t, tell them what your baptism means to you.
How has God been a refuge for you? Think and reflect on how God has been the one you turn to when life gets hard then pray for an opportunity to have a conversation about that with someone who isn’t a Jesus follower this week. Look for the opportunity, and when it comes, share how God has been the one you turn to when things get hard.
What do you wake up to in the morning? Is the first thing you see your phone’s blue glare? This week, commit to opening a paper copy of Scripture before looking at any screens. If you need Scripture to read, read Psalm 46 every day this week. Invite your kids into the practice – if they have screens, invite them to do this with you. You might consider putting your phones to bed in a common place with enough chargers for everyone. If your kids are smaller, read the passage of Scripture with them as they get ready or as you eat breakfast.
The week of February 25, 2024
Together in Word
Narrative: Mark 1:21-28
Mark wastes no time in describing the ministry of Jesus. In this text, Jesus is in Capernaum (where he will choose to establish a home-base for ministry and perform many miracles) and He encounters a man possessed by an evil spirit. This man was tormented by the impure spirit. Jesus commanded the spirit to depart, and he was at peace. Jesus truly brought peace to many through His ministry.
Devotional: Psalm 91
This Psalm contains both a reflection from the Psalmist (vv. 1-13) and a divine oracle from God (vv. 14-16). It is connected to both Psalms 90 and 92 since it contains some similar phrases. At the heart of this Psalm is the conviction that God is a shelter in the face of the difficulties of life. We cannot necessarily plan for our challenges - because we don’t always know how or when they will arise. However, we can depend on the powerful presence of our Lord in the midst of the storms of our lives. And it is during those turbulent times that we most need the peace the Lord provides!
Life can often seem overwhelming for our kids. Between the morning rush to get to daycare or school, after-school activities, youth sports, church events, and then back home for dinner, homework, and bed, life can feel anything but peaceful. But one of the things God promises His followers is peace. You may not be able to stop all the weekly events you are running around to, but what would it look like to demonstrate peace even amid a busy life?
Consider playing calming music in the car while you hop from place to place. You could also use those moments to talk to your child. Remind them that the most important thing in life is not baseball, dance, or even grades but a life lived for Jesus. Consider taking time to reevaluate your family commitments. A “yes” to something will mean a “no” to something else. Are you saying “yes” and “no” to the right things?
Together in Deed
As you have reflected on this text this week, how do you sense God leading you to serve at our church? How is God leading you? Also, how supportive are you of others who are serving in our church? How are you supporting and blessing the leaders of our church? Is God using you to assist others in finding paths of service at our church?
Choose a Practice
- Do you serve at First Baptist? There are many areas open for serving, and in many of those you can choose how frequently you would like to serve. If you’re part of a family, find an age-appropriate way to serve as a family (greeting at doors can be done with preschoolers, serving in the preschool ministry can be a great way to involve your teens, etc.). If you’re single, find friends to join you in serving, and do it together!
- Write thank you cards to people who serve in our church. Are Sunday School teachers making a difference in your child’s life? Sit down with your kids and help them write thank you cards to their teachers; their scribbles make for great signatures. Are you grateful for high-quality streaming and well-timed slides? Thank the AV team for their great work.
- Genuine encouragement can be a rarity in our culture. If you notice that God has been using someone to accomplish ministry, make it a point to speak to them in person or call them on the phone to tell them how you see God working through them.
The week of March 10, 2024
Together in Word
Narrative: Mark 2:18-22
In this reading from Mark, we discover that Jesus came to transform every area of our lives. Some of the people in Jesus’s day wondered about the daily practices of Jesus and his disciples. In this text, they asked Him about fasting—presumably wondering about how He observed some of the normal rituals of everyday faith in the first century. Jesus issued a revelation that He had inaugurated a new day. His ministry marked a new beginning for the people of God. You can’t just sew this new revelation from God onto an old garment. He came to make all things new!
Devotional: Psalm 1
This Psalm serves as the Introduction to the entire collection of Psalms. The Psalmist announces the blessing of God upon the person who makes daily decisions about life that are pleasing to God. This blessed person does not take counsel from the wicked, the sinners, or the mockers. Rather, this blessed person takes counsel from a daily encounter with God through engaging with Scripture and meditating on God’s truths. This blessed person becomes like a deeply rooted tree that is prosperous and fruitful. In fact, that blessed person follows the righteous way that leads to eternal life. Don’t you want to be that person? Give time each day to hear God’s voice through His Word! Over time, these daily practices will bear fruit in your life!
Children and adolescents are not concrete thinkers. When it comes to God, they tend to see the church building as the place of God’s activity. In other words, they may believe that the church building is the primary place we encounter God. In truth, God is active everywhere! God is in the everyday.
Take some time this week to help them observe all the different places where God is present (e.g., in nature, the classroom, car line, baseball field, auditorium, gym, and at home). As you eat dinner around the table, ask them, “Where did you see God today?” If they can’t answer, encourage them to look for God in unexpected places tomorrow.
Together in Deed
Choose a Practice
March 10th begins the period of fasting for Muslims known as Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims cannot put anything into their bodies from sun up to sun down. Approximately 1 in 8 people in Arlington are Muslim. Pray for the Muslims in our community to encounter Jesus during this period of time, which lasts until April 8th.
Fast from food and water from sun up to sun down alongside Muslims in our community. When you experience hunger and thirst while fasting, pray for Muslims here and around the world, that they will come to know Jesus and begin a journey of discipleship.
Eat at a Middle Eastern restaurant this week. Local favorites vary from Fattoush to Prince Lebanese. Explore the culture of the people that God has made and loves deeply. Be aware, many local Muslim-owned restaurants close around dinner time to prepare for large buffet style meals for Muslims breaking their daily fast – going for lunch is a wise plan. As you eat and taste food from another culture, pray! Take your kids along if you can.
Has your child ever awkwardly pointed at a woman in a hijab in Target and loudly said, “Why is she wearing that!?” Watch the below video that helpfully explains some basics of Islam for children. Watch this video with your child and pray together that people will know Jesus and learn to make Him their King.